To avoid antitrust suit, Google considered purchase of Epic Games - The UpStream

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To avoid antitrust suit, Google considered purchase of Epic Games

posted Saturday Aug 14, 2021 by Scott Ertz

To avoid antitrust suit, Google considered purchase of Epic Games

In one of the biggest and more high-profile stories of the past few years, Epic Games has sued Google and Apple, claiming that the companies are operating as a monopoly in their control over mobile apps on Android and iOS devices. The suit came about after Epic Games added its own payment system to the mobile version of Fortnite. This move violated both companies' app store policies, which require purchases within their stores to use their very expensive payment systems.

According to Epic's legal team,

Google has maintained its monopolistic position by exercising unlawful leverage against smartphone manufacturers, incentivizing them to favor Google's own applications - particularly Google Search - over those of competitors.

Both Apple and Google have worked hard to try and avoid this suit because a loss could result in a major change in business models. Especially for Google, the cost of Android is paid for almost entirely through Google Play purchases. This is because the licensing for Android is free, with the operating system being mostly open source. In an attempt to avoid the lawsuit, Google took a very unique and questionable tact for a while - contemplating making a purchase offer to buy some or all of Epic Games. The information was made available to Epic Games as part of the lawsuit's process of discovery.

Obviously, if the offer had been made, there is little to no chance that Epic Games would have accepted. The company, and CEO Tim Sweeney, seem pretty serious about this crusade to launch an Epic Games Store on the two major mobile platforms. They also seem serious about defeating what they consider inappropriate corporate behavior.

More interestingly, according to a tweet from CEO Tim Sweeney,

This was unbeknownst to us at the time, and because of the court's protective order we're just finding out now about Google's consideration of buying Epic to shut down our efforts to compete with Google Play.

Obviously, the plans did not get far past the theory stage, or Sweeney would have at least heard rumors about the idea. In fact, if it had gotten to anything past just idle chit chat, it's likely that the industry at large would have heard about it.

The move was likely killed because there was no way that it would have gone through. In addition to the company not being interested, the government would have been very suspicious of the motives behind the buyout. It would be far from the first time a company bought another in order to avoid a lawsuit, but when the suit is this high profile, and the company in question is already under anti-trust scrutiny, it does not bode well for the purchase.

The United States Department of Justice is already conducting an investigation into Google's business practices for the same reasons cited by Epic Games in its own suit. The European Union (EU) is also investigating whether or not Google violated antitrust laws with their Android platform.

Currently, Google is appealing an antitrust decision by the European Commission that would require it to change its search engine algorithm. Specifically, Google's modifications were required in order to avoid favoring their own businesses over that of competitors.


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